Dr. Oz Senate Testimony

Dr. Oz Senate Testimony

February 6, 2009

On February 26, Dr. Mehmet Oz, cardiac surgeon and Founder and Chairman of HealthCorps®, testified before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) about the role of integrative medicine in health reform and his proactive national health movement that has already established its educational and peer mentoring program in forty-four schools across the country.

Dr. Oz was the sole expert witness on the first panel of the hearing, which was titled “Integrative Care:Pathway to A Healthier Nation” and co-chaired by U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), a senior member of HELP, and U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). Senator Mikulski was tapped by HELP Committee Chairman Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) to lead the U.S. Senate work group on improving health care quality as part of a comprehensive effort to strengthen America’s health care system.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, Vice-Chair and Professor of Surgery at Columbia University and Director of the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital, founded HealthCorps in 2003 to educate students in healthy lifestyle principles and to extend the mission to their families, teachers and communities.

Responding to the Obama Administration’s plans to reform health care to reduce costs and underscore preventive means to address chronic illness, as well as invest heavily in national service, Dr. Oz, stated, “We need to develop a Smart Patient model to integrate complementary and alternative medical approaches with conventional medical treatments and encourage Americans to assume more personal responsibility in safeguarding their health. I favor a health system that promotes a culture of wellness with access to healthful foods for the population at large.”

On the role of national service, Dr. Oz, said, “We need to make it the norm for graduating high school students to join organizations like HealthCorps that serve our nation and touch thousands of lives. In this way, we’re encouraging service learning projects by harvesting talent and getting youth to fight for change in their communities.” Dr. Oz highlighted the role of HealthCorps, a health movement he created to empower Americans to embrace healthier lifestyles and become health activists in their communities.

HealthCorps’ in-school program, which uses a curriculum focused on nutrition, fitness and mental resilience, reached approximately 15,000 students in the school year’s first semester. Senator Mikulski invited HealthCorps’s President, Michelle Bouchard, to testify at a March 12 hearing on national service.
Dr. Oz testifies before the US Senate HELP Committee

Dr. Oz testifies before the US Senate HELP Committee.

In responding to the Senators’ inquiries on the program, Dr. Oz emphasized the effectiveness of HealthCorps’ Peace Corps model, which deploys recent college graduates with a strong interest in pursuing careers in medicine or health policy, to high schools campuses for two years to educate teens on making smart lifestyle choices that will endure for life. The program includes a strong community outreach arm and targets at risk populations, many of whom have limited access to whole foods and infrastructures that encourage regular exercise.

The hearing continued a weeklong conversation that featured national experts exploring the best ways to inject the principles and practices of integrative medicine into the health reform debate. The dialogue also coincided with the Institute of Medicine’s “Summit on Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public,” which concludes today at the Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Oz was asked to remain on the hearing’s second panel with witnesses Dr. Mark Hyman, founder and medical director of The Ultra Wellness Center; Dr. Dean Ornish, founder and president of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute; and Dr. Andy Weil, director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.

After the hearing, Dr. Oz addressed Senate staff about HealthCorps’ mission and activities. He responded to a host of questions about how he can bring the school-based health educational and mentoring program to more states to help stem the child obesity and diabetes crisis in the country and help Americans of all ages to take charge of their health.

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